Medical care will always be expensive but real health is free

Patrick Kee

Real health does not lie in our clinics and hospitals. Kenneth Walker, a consultant surgeon made the following observation in the late 1950s:

There is no quicker method of disposing of patients than by giving what they are asking for, and since most medical men in the Health Services are overworked and have little time for offering…time-consuming and little appreciated advice on such subjects as diet, right living, and the need for abandoning bad habits, etc., the bottle of medicine, a box of pills, and the jar of ointment are almost always granted them.

Health is not expensive and is readily available to everyone. It is medical care that is expensive and patients will always be at the mercy of doctors if they don’t face the reality of death as part of life. It is so sad to see so many patients trying to fight a futile war against death spending much of their wealth and living a poor quality of life.

It would be so much healthier if we learn to live with cancer and death. On patient who had to undergo treatment for seven kinds of cancer told me a simple truth: “Doctor, my cancers cannot kill me for they will also die.” Cancer in fact is not a death sentence but a message to live more fully.

We will never be able to find a solution to health care financing if we don’t address the right questions. The cost of medical care is a bottomless pit if society is obsessed by the fear of death.

Another problem is that of greed which keeps people from understanding the co-operative spirit of caring and sharing. For example, a middle aged Singaporean lamented that he will never be able to save enough to be able to live up to the age of 90! It is so sad that so many Singaporeans are thinking only of themselves instead of how we can help one another to live meaningful lives.

We have been brainwashed into thinking only for ourselves rather than for our community. We are living in “a contaminated moral environment” described by Vaclav Havel. He wrote the following description of the terrible economic and social conditions left by over fifty years of communist rule in his country:

“The worst thing is that we lived in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we got used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore each other, to care only for ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility, and forgiveness lost their depth and dimensions…

The previous regime… reduced man to a force of production and nature to a tool of production… It reduced gifted and talented people to nuts and bolts of some monstrously huge, noisy and stinking machine, whose real meaning is not clear to anyone.

When I talk about contaminated moral atmosphere, I am not just talking about the (communist officials). I am talking about all of us. We had all become used to the totalitarian system and accepted it as an unalterable fact of life, and thus we helped to perpetuate it…. None of us are just its victims: we are all also its co-creators.”

The real issue at hand is how to wake Singaporeans up to the above truths and setting them free from fear and greed

Dr Patrick Kee is a member of SDP’s Healthcare Advisory Panel. Dr Kee is a specialist in Palliative Medicine who has been caring for the terminally ill for the past 10 years.

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